Nepal is famous for its mountains. Mount Everest and Annapurna beckon, especially in the fall and spring, to nearly a million travelers each year. Comprehensive guides that detail the country’s popular trekking routes have been written for hikers. And yet, you don’t have to take one step in a hiking boot to truly experience Nepal. A multitude of budget-friendly ways to learn about the culture, connect with locals and have a positive impact on the community are available to non-hikers.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Taste local foods.
If you’re going to eat your way through a country, let the locals show you how to do it. You’ll learn more. Follow a local guide through Patan’s alleys, learning centuries of history and then sit with them for a Newari feast and cultural program. Or better yet, sign up for a cooking class in a local guide’s home to learn how to make traditional dishes. There’s nothing like breaking bread with a local host to really get a sense of their lives.
Watch a cultural performance.
Traditional dances and songs can disappear if they’re not shared from generation to generation, and with visitors. Help preserve cultural traditions in villages across Nepal by taking the time to attend a performance. In Patlekhet, a rare dance where a shaman connects with the spirit world is still practiced. In Bardiya, Tharu dances and music reveal influences from the surrounding environment. In Nuwakot, two singers battle, sharing personal stories and challenging each other to maintain a rhyme.
Take a bicycle tour.
Perhaps you enjoy sightseeing more on two wheels? Go biking with a local guide through Barouli in the Terai region to explore the village and learn about life next to the jungle.
Tour a coffee or tea farm.
You can’t visit Ilam without learning to pick tea leaves. Nepal’s most famous tea region begs you to wander tea gardens and learn more about what it takes to brew a good cup of tea from a local farmer. If coffee is more your speed, visit Tansen and Bista’s coffee plantation instead, where coffee beans are the most important agricultural product for some 2,000 farmers.
Search for wildlife.
Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s first national park, is a sanctuary for one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, elephants and more. Hop in a Jeep for a chance to view these animals up close and learn about how their natural habitat is being preserved. Visit Bardiya National Park, home to some 400 birds, for a chance to see egrets, black ibis, kingfishers and more. Birdwatching has created more awareness around the conservation of natural habitats around Barouli as well. Find your bird watching tribe among the locals here.
**Hiring local guides empowers them to make a living sharing what they know best and feel good about fueling the local economy. We’d be remiss not to note that all of Community Homestay’s experiences are created and led by local guides who are excited to engage with visitors.